Four years later, the number has multiplied. People live on a main thoroughfare near the school, at a nearby park, and below the off-ramps and bridges in her hometown of San Fernando, which is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. In the San Fernando Valley, homelessness increased 36% to 7,094 people last year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency's annual count. Daniela and her friends wanted to help, but giving money wasn’t an option.
"Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can't give them money," the high school senior says.
"We wanted to offer something besides money," her classmate, Veronica Gonzalez, chimes in.
That was the starting point for their invention: a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack.
The girls and 10 others from their high school had never done any hands-on engineering work before, but with the help of YouTube, Google, and trial-and-error, they got it done.
They hope that one day, their tent will improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness in their community.
They were recruited by DIY Girls, a nonprofit that teaches girls from low-income communities about engineering, math, and science, to go after the grant.
"I knew I wanted to apply for it, but I needed a team," says Evelyn Gomez, 29, the executive director of DIY Girls. "I went back to my calculus teacher at my high school and did a hands-on recruitment activity."
Most of the girls didn't know each other before, but they quickly became close friends.
Hands-on STEM education at schools, especially for girls in low-income communities, is severely lacking, Evelyn says. Women make up just 29% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Science Board, a federal agency. Around 6% of female working scientists and engineers are Hispanic or Latina.